Raúl Orlando Edwards has the honorable distinction of receiving recognition from four consecutive City of Houston's Mayors - Brown, White, Parker, and Turner. An artistic vision he fulfills through the arts - as a portfolio featuring performing, cuisine, community, and other areas reflects - he carries out his firm conviction of using the arts to positively impact people in the Greater Houston Area and beyond. Arriving in Houston in 1995, his citywide impact was soon felt. In 1998 - three years after moving to Houston - he established the City's first official salsa studio and since then, has led the way others in the field would later follow. He has been involved in over 100 community and arts initiatives promoting health, cultural diversity, inclusion, equality, healthy eating, and other social issues. He is the recipient of awards and commendations from civic, private, and governmental entities which in addition to praising his dedication to bettering our communities, confirm that this type of vision is very much needed in today's society. Among these is the prestigious Jefferson Award - one of the highest honors presented to individuals for outstanding community service. With awards and recognition come responsibilities. Seeing the lack of representation and inclusion in Houston's Latin American art scene, in 2006 he launched FLAMART (Featuring Latin American Music and ART) with the mission of presenting and celebrating all groups that make up Latin culture. Raúl's creativity extends to his ability to establish, manage and lead programs/organizations in achieving their potential. Essential to his vision is that all art-forms are presented with the dignity and respect they deserve. In 2008 Foundation for Modern Music invited him to lead the organization and in less than two years, he increased audience attendance from less than 600 to over 7,500 annual attendees! This reputation of 'making it happen' led to an invitation from Rice University Boniuk Institute in 2017 to launch Arts of Tolerance, an outreach program using the arts to educate and share the message of tolerance and inclusion. In his three years as its Executive Director, he led the organization in over 30 collaborations reaching over 17,000 in audience. The program was suspended in the summer of 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic. The impact of Raúl's work is a reflection of his broad professional experiences which range from being an award winning Budget Technician with the U.S. Army to working in the food industry to educational institutions to national event promotions agency, and others; in all, providing him with a plethora of knowledge and challenges that tested his ability to improvise, adapt and execute the mission at hand with high quality results. Radio, television and printed press have collectively featured his work over 50 times, with awards and recommendations in equal numbers. A commanding 100 plus number of staged productions from coast to coast summarize the community and artistic ingenuity he possess, showcasing the character and motivating source that has become his life's mission. In his free time he explores visual arts; volunteers for community events; engages in cuisine conversations with foodies and chefs; partakes in fitness activities; and enjoys a robust glass of red wine with friends.
"…engaging, varied and exciting programming and seeks to build bridges between communities…continues to add to Houston’s diversity while sharing the distinctive Afro-Latin culture…”
Sylvester Turner, Mayor City of Houston
Afro Latin Fest Proclamation, June 2018